John D. Wood’s Story
Ethan’s Fund scholarship recipient at The Culver Alumni House

One of the overwhelming through-lines during COVID 19 was the isolation that results from being quarantined.  For anyone struggling with a substance use disorder, isolation becomes one of the biggest issues.  Isolation can be a turning point for someone fighting addiction, a point from which many never return.  John D. Wood, JD to his friends, passed that threshold during COVID and is now fighting his way back.

Today JD is an empathetic, caring, and spiritual person; who proudly identifies himself as a disabled veteran recovering from alcoholism and PTSD.  He grew up in Lodi, Wisconsin in a family of four. His father was the local Sheriff, which meant JD was often under a watchful eye, but also afforded leniency when it was convenient.  His mother stayed at home until she became a sheet metal worker and, “one hell of a welder,” JD recalls.  JD also has a sister who is three years his junior.

As a child JD was shy and often withdrawn.  To counter his tendency to isolate, JD played sports; thriving in hockey.  Unfortunately for JD and his sister, home wasn’t always a happy environment.  His parents fought often and to JD, “they probably should have gotten divorced early on in my childhood.”  A pivotal moment in his life came early in his youth when he was the victim of sexual trauma.  Along with many neighborhood children, JD was abused at the hands of a seedy network of local adults.  Like so many of his recovery fellows, these events became the catalyst for his drinking and drug abuse.

At the age of 11, JD began leaning on substances to break out of his shyness and to deal with trauma, “drinking made me less shy but angry; either way I forgot.”  As the drinking progressed, an alcohol related injury ended JD’s respite through hockey.  Out of athletics, JD dedicated himself to the party, “we constantly had parties out on the farm that ended in fights or some other mayhem that I was usually in the center of.”  At 16, through the fog of a relentless party, JD got married and was soon a father.

JD’s young marriage, like many, didn’t last.  This left JD looking for direction and a way out of Lodi.  After passing the GED test, JD joined the Army, “a friend of mine had joined the Navy and from what he said the military would give me a chance to get out and become something.”  Now divorced and an enlisted man JD found comradery and structure in the armed forces.

JD’s military service is one of the most influential factors in his life.  He honorably served in the Army’s rapid reaction force.  He was a part of the air assault team, air cavalry mobile, and was cross trained in a number of different fields and skills.  He was a part of a team specifically trained for the potential invasion of Nicaragua. As a result, there are parts of his military service he cannot discuss.  While on a training mission, in an unfamiliar place, JD was the casualty of an armored vehicle accident.  “The others involved were medevacked with priority injuries, as a result of the incident, and I was left behind.”  Concussed and confused, JD remembers becoming aware of his surroundings, “I came to with a first aid kit in my hand and started protocol.” JD always remained committed to his duty.  The aftermath of the incident sparked a psychological brush fire that would later be diagnosed as PTSD.

As a result of the incident, JD was honorably discharged from the Army.  He returned to his family in Georgia, disabled and traumatized.  Much like his first marriage, domestic bliss did not last long as both he and his wife began abusing drugs and alcohol.  JD used the substances to deal with the military fallout, “as a result of the accident I couldn’t sleep, I was always nervous and anxious.  I was angry and lost.”

Missing the structure and discipline of the military JD and his family moved from state to state while he jumped from job to job.  Through all the inconsistency there was the constant companionship of alcohol, drugs, and a toxic relationship.  While in California, deep in addiction, JD learned his father had passed away and immediately returned home.

In California JD’s drug use reached its peak, using methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana.  Moving back home to mourn the death of his father JD thought, “I could stop using drugs and get out of the relationship that caused nothing but chaos.”

JD was unaware of the existence of the VA at this point and wasn’t getting help.  He moved between his mother’s house and a friend’s house and his drinking spiraled.  The VA provided no assistance, so he remained without help.  Still struggling but now seeking help on his own, JD finally found minor relief in Domiciliary 123 in Milwaukee, where he participated in process groups and was introduced to recovery.  JD was still struggling with alcohol and suffering significantly.  Finally, after years of steady and deadly abuse, JD discovered The Dewey Center.  The Dewey Center would prove to be the beginning of a true solution.

As he began to restore his spirituality and faith through the program, especially meditation, JD began moving in the right direction.    “Spirituality is what I was lacking, and I found that at Dewey.”  The structure and comradery of the community became the first comfort JD had since his service.  However, as his residential treatment came to an end, the fear of going home alone set in.  This is where Ethan’s Fund stepped in.

Looking for options, and unable to financially support them, JD was awarded a scholarship through Ethan’s Fund and became a resident at the Culver Alumni House.  “I couldn’t live there without this scholarship and there is no way I would be sober and doing this well without the house.”  Instead of his treatment coming to an abrupt end, JD was able to stay on the Dewey campus and continue AODA and mental health treatment.  If you were witness to JD the last three months, you would be continuously amazed by his progress.

Thanks to Ethan’s Fund, the Culver Alumni House, and the Dewey Center, JD continues on the path of serenity and sobriety.  JD has a huge amount of gratitude for the programs at Dewey, and the “God sent gift of the scholarship that made it possible”.  Today he looks forward to sharing the stability he has found by passing the message to other struggling veterans and anyone who needs help.

“I believe that my higher power wants me here and has worked through the people who made it possible.  The aid given to me has truly saved my life.”  Now, for the first time in a decade, JD isn’t isolated.  He has a family in the recovery community.  He continues to fight the war of his addiction and mental health, but now he has the foundation to be successful.